Internet titan Google plunged into the online travel market, buying ITA Software, a flight information software company, for $700 million in cash.
Google’s purchase of the Massachusetts-based ITA yesterday raises prospects of a battle over the lucrative sector between the Web search giant and Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Microsoft’s Bing Travel and other sites.
Google said its acquisition of ITA, which was founded in 1996 by a team of computer scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “will create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online.”
“The acquisition will benefit passengers, airlines and online travel agencies by making it easier for users to comparison shop for flights and airfares,” the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement.
“Airline travel and search are a terrific opportunity for more innovation, more investment and more interesting products,” Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said in a conference call. “There’s clearly more room for competition and innovation here.”
Google stressed that it “won’t be setting airfare prices and has no plans to sell airline tickets to consumers.”
“Our goal is to build a tool that drives more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites where customers can purchase tickets,” the company said.
ITA, a 500-person firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, specializes in organizing airline data, including flight times, availability and prices.
Its QPX flight data organization tool uses algorithms to combine flight information from airlines, including pricing and availability, to create a searchable database.